Walking for Health

Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – May 29, 1948

Walking for Health

Recently died an eminent man who believed that most of the bodily ills from which men suffer could be prevented by walking.

In modern times more and more people seem to take to walking as others of us take to patent medicines, and spend hour after hour tramping the streets, the roads and the mountains as a preventive of disease.

One great man has told us that he has two doctors—his right leg and his left leg—and Sir Max Beerbohm seems almost eccentric nowadays in admitting that he has never gone for a walk in his life.

After the invention and popularization of the motor-car it looked at first as if the habit of walking were dying. Young people in their enthusiasm took out the car to drive even to a house two hundred yards away. Legs were gradually becoming useless except for the purpose of playing golf and lawn tennis.

People began so wholeheartedly to hate their legs that they insisted on having lifts installed in blocks of flats, hotels and offices. It seemed so much easier to swallow a pill than to climb a few flights of stairs.

Soon, however, the craze for something new asserted itself, and a large part of the community turned back for pleasure to the novelty of walking. Men joined walking clubs and were never so happy as when they were leg-weary in a fifth-rate hotel after trudging all day among hills that they cold have seen perfectly well through field glasses from a motor-car.

Some of them even walked from London to Brighton at so fast a rate I doubt whether they ever saw a bird or a flower in the course of their journey. Walking for walking’s sake was the rule, and, if the muscles ached sufficiently, all was well.

Certainly, the temptation to walk when once one was given in to it, becomes irresistible. Go to St. Ives, and, instead of sitting down there and enjoying yourself, you will find yourself walking to Carbis Bay or Zennor or even as far as Penzance.

If your will is weak, it is almost as difficult not to walk as not to smoke.

Just as many great men have been smokers, however, so many great men have been walkers. The two greatest English essayists, Hazlitt and Lamb, were both walkers, though Lamb seems to have suggested that he did not walk for the sake of walking. Usually saying that he had walked not so many miles but so many pints.

In our time what does the Socialist movement not owe to those indefatigable walkers, Sidney Webb and Mr. Shaw? Those who have had the experience of going for a walk with Mr. Shaw will have had a good notion of what it must be like to try and keep up with a man who was wearing seven league boots.

How one gasped and panted and all but broke into a run as, with one’s heart near bursting point, one listened to the most glorious talk on earth, and reflected that, if one did drop dead the next minute, at least it would have been almost worth it!

There is an old proverb which runs: “Much talkers, little walkers,” but two of the greatest talkers of our own age, Mr. Shaw and Mr. Belloc, have also been two of the greatest walkers.

Obviously, then, there must be something to be said in favor of walking. I fancy, however, it is a townsman’s rather than a countryman’s form of pleasure.

Perhaps it is my country ancestry that makes me so little of a glutton for walking today. There was a time when I was townified enough to walk to the top of Snowdon, but with the advancing years my rustic blood has re-asserted itself, so that today it would take a good deal to induce me to walk to the top of Parliament Hill.

Yet when I reflect that as a result of not living up to the Snowdon standard I have become a mere receptacle of medicines, I begin to think that Mr. Shaw and Dr. Trevelyan and the eternally youthful walkers of our age are wiser men than I.

I am sure Methuselah was the champion walker of his time, and in this extremely interesting world I sometimes feel that I should like to live as long as Methuselah.

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